Britain’s social safety net has “been torn apart”, Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols has said.
“I think what’s happening is two things”, he told the Daily Telegraph.
“One is that the basic safety net, that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution, has actually been torn apart. It no longer exists, and that is a real real dramatic crisis.
“And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance – I am told – has become more and more punitive.
“So, if applicants don’t get it right then they have to wait and they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks – with nothing, with nothing. And that’s why the role of food banks has become so crucial for so many people in Britain today.
“And for a country of our affluence that quite frankly is a disgrace.”
The Government defended its welfare reforms, which are overseen by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who is a Catholic.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The benefits system this Government inherited was broken, trapping the very people it was designed to help, with around five million on out of work benefits and millions of children growing up in workless households.
“Our welfare reforms will transform the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with Universal Credit making three million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
“It’s wrong to talk of removing a safety net when we’re spending 94bn a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.”
Cardinal-designate Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, will receive the red hat from Pope Francis on February 22.